8 Health Benefits Of Lion’s Mane Mushroom

What’s white, fluffy, and commonly found outdoors? You guessed it – lion’s mane! This incredible mushroom is all the buzz in wellness news. Read on to find out why.

By Caitlin Shaw4 min read
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Western medicine may deny it, but mushrooms are amazingly powerful healing tools that have been used in Asia for decades to treat a variety of health problems. In American culture, mushrooms are often no more than a pizza topping or a salad ingredient, but in the East, mushrooms have been considered the “elixir of life” for centuries. Certain fungi are used to treat infections and cancers, including lung, breast, colorectal, and more. Beyond this, they contain antibacterial, immune system-enhancing, and cholesterol-lowering properties. 

What Is Lion’s Mane?

Lion’s mane, as its name would suggest, is a mushroom that looks like it should be attached to a wild animal’s neck. But this shaggy, light-colored edible fungus is used frequently for a variety of health reasons. Lion’s mane, also known by its scientific name Hericium erinaceus, is most commonly found in tablet, capsule, or powder form. It’s sold in grocery stores, markets, supplement shops, and even drug stores. It can be added to smoothies, teas, coffee, soups, or other recipes. It can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried, and many people compare its taste to seafood

In the wild, lion’s mane is commonly found during the transition from summer to fall on decaying trees, logs, and stumps in North America, Asia, and Europe. You’re more likely to find it on oak, maple, or beech trees when the weather is temperate. Because of its specific environmental conditions, lion’s mane and similar fungi are pretty rare, and it’s considered at-risk in some regions.

NCBioTeacher, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
NCBioTeacher, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Because lion’s mane, and other fungi, recycle nutrients from plants and deposit them back into the soil, they are extremely important to our ecosystems. So, if you find some in the wild, be kind to it! 

Does Lion’s Mane Come with Side Effects or Interactions?

Lion’s mane is a relatively harmless mushroom with few reported side effects. No studies have been conducted exclusively on the effects of lion’s mane on humans, but research shows only positive effects have been reported in rats taking lion’s mane

There is a possibility that it could interfere with blood-clotting function and blood sugar levels. So be sure to have a discussion with your doctor about your lion’s mane intake if you take any prescription medications. Other side effects reported among heavy users were abdominal pain, nausea, and skin rashes – however, these adverse effects are unlikely. When it comes to lion’s mane, the positive historically outweighs the negative.

The Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane

In traditional Eastern medicinal practice, lion’s mane is used to treat insomnia, muscle weakness, and cancer. But now that our Western world is catching on to this fungus’s incredible capabilities, it’s being used to treat more health issues beyond these. 

Brain Benefits 

If you want to ward off memory loss, lion’s mane could be your secret to success. Lion’s mane has been nicknamed the “Smart Mushroom” because of its ability to retain brain health, cognition, and memory. In a 2020 study, participants who took one gram of lion’s mane every day for 49 weeks displayed significantly higher cognitive test scores than the control group. Research suggests that lion’s mane has the potential to protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. This is because the mushroom contains hericenones and erinacines, two key chemical compounds that help grow new brain cells. 

Mental Health Benefits

Lion’s mane contains anti-inflammatory properties that are thought to alleviate mild anxiety and depression symptoms. One study tested the effect that lion’s mane has on mental health by feeding a group of women cookies with the fungus in it and then surveying their overall anxiety at the end. Results suggested that it could lower anxiety and depression levels, but more research is needed to say this with confidence.

Digestive System Benefits 

Lion’s mane is believed to improve gastrointestinal (GI) tract function because it prevents the growth of a harmful gut bacteria called H. pylori. A 2016 study reported that ulcerative colitis patients taking a mushroom supplement experienced an improved quality of life after just a few weeks. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are also believed to be beneficial to the digestive system, but more research is needed on this facet of the fungus as well. 

Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities make it an amazing immune system booster.

Immune System Benefits 

Having a strong immune system may be one of the secrets to a long life. Our immune system helps protect us from foreign agents that can cause illness or disease, so its ability to function efficiently is important. Lion’s mane works to boost the immune system because it promotes the growth of good bacteria, which help fight against illness. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities also make it an amazing immune system booster.

Antioxidant Benefits 

Antioxidants are incredibly beneficial to your health because they protect the body from the harmful byproducts of oxidation. Oxidation in the human body can harm cell membranes, DNA, and other biological structures, so incorporating antioxidants into your diet and lifestyle can prove beneficial on several health fronts. Lion’s mane contains a carbohydrate called oligosaccharide which is pivotal in reducing oxidation and tumors. Research has shown lion’s mane to be the fourth most antioxidant mushroom.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits 

Chronic inflammation can also be very damaging to the body if left untreated because it can lead to autoimmune, mental health, and sometimes other life-altering diseases. Inflammation is so toxic to the body because it can inhibit cellular function, damage organs and tissues, and alter DNA. Studies have shown that lion’s mane has anti-inflammatory properties that can help manage inflammatory bowel disease, liver damage, and stroke. It’s possible that there are other positive byproducts of lion’s mane’s anti-inflammatory capabilities, but more research will need to be done.

Heart Benefits 

Lion’s mane could reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels. A 2010 study showed that rats fed lion’s mane experienced a 27% drop in triglycerides and a 42% less weight gain. More research needs to be conducted to determine the true effects it would have on humans, but the current evidence is promising. 

Nervous System Benefits 

The nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal chord, and it’s responsible for transporting signals from nerve endings to the brain. To say it’s an important structure in the human body is an understatement. Rat study data shows that lion’s mane helps encourage nerve cell re-growth and facilitates faster repair. It could also help reduce the severity of brain damage following a stroke or other traumatic accident.

Closing Thoughts

The above list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lion’s mane and its health benefits. More research is being conducted to determine what other facets of health this seemingly magic mushroom can heal. If you're feeling up to the challenge, you can introduce the mushroom into your diet through a popular brand like Four Sigmatic which carries organic coffee and tea made with lion's mane and chaga mushrooms, or you can make your own unique blend using supplements bought directly at your local health store.

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